Digital Communications Possessed
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
336 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 38.00 mm, 11
- ISBN: 9781517901547
- Published: October 2018
A complete history and theory of internet daemons brings these little-known—but very consequential—programs into the spotlight
We’re used to talking about how tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Amazon rule the internet, but what about daemons? Ubiquitous programs that have colonized the Net’s infrastructure—as well as the devices we use to access it—daemons are little known. Fenwick McKelvey weaves together history, theory, and policy to give a full account of where daemons come from and how they influence our lives—including their role in hot-button issues like network neutrality.
Going back to Victorian times and the popular thought experiment Maxwell’s Demon, McKelvey charts how daemons evolved from concept to reality, eventually blossoming into the pandaemonium of code-based creatures that today orchestrates our internet. Digging into real-life examples like sluggish connection speeds, Comcast’s efforts to control peer-to-peer networking, and Pirate Bay’s attempts to elude daemonic control (and skirt copyright), McKelvey shows how daemons have been central to the internet, greatly influencing everyday users.
Internet Daemons asks important questions about how much control is being handed over to these automated, autonomous programs, and the consequences for transparency and oversight.
Abbreviations and Technical Terms
1. The Devil We Know: Maxwell’s Demon, Cyborg Sciences, and Flow Control
2. Possessing Infrastructure: Nonsynchronous Communication, IMPs, and Optimization
3. IMPs, OLIVERs, and Gateways: Internetworking before the Internet
4. Pandaemonium: The Internet as Daemons
5. Suffering from Buffering? Affects of Flow Control
6. The Disoptimized: The Ambiguous Tactics of the Pirate Bay
7. A Crescendo of Online Interactive Debugging? Gamers, Publics and Daemons
Appendix: Internet Measurement and Mediators
"Beneath social media, beneath search, Internet Daemons reveals another layer of algorithms: deeper, burrowed into information networks. Fenwick McKelvey is the best kind of intellectual spelunker, taking us deep into the infrastructure and shining his light on these obscure but vital mechanisms. What he has delivered is a precise and provocative rethinking of how to conceive of power in and among networks."—Tarleton Gillespie, author of Custodians of the Internet
"Internet Daemons is an original and important contribution to the field of digital media studies. Fenwick McKelvey extensively maps and analyzes how daemons influence data exchanges across Internet infrastructures. This study insightfully demonstrates how daemons are transformative entities that enable particular ways of transferring information and connecting up communication, with significant social and political consequences."—Jennifer Gabrys, author of Program Earth